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Weekend Drinking Could Now Get You Expelled June 30, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Alcohol and Illegal Drugs, Easy As Pie, Human Body, Nutrition and Health.


At a high school in New Jersey, staff will soon be requiring teens to have a urine test that measures alcohol in their system. The idea is to deter teens from boozing it up on weekends but the test itself is a controversial one.


Drinking is a problem that continues to grow in schools and thousands of students will die each year from alcohol related poisoning. The idea with the test is that students will be afraid of the consequences enough to abstain from drinking on the weekends. The test would be done on 4 to 8 students at a time but students wouldn’t know in advance who gets tested.

Urine Urine Doesn’t Lie

Actually, in this case it can. In fact, this is a test that could bust someone who hasn’t knowingly consumed any alcohol at all. The test measures urine concentrations of an alcohol breakdown product called ethyl glucuronide (EtG). The challenge with the EtG test is it’s so sensitive that it can pick up alcohol you might have ingested in teensy amounts-from mouthwash, for example. So you could completely abstain from drinking and still show a false positive. Finding a threshold to differentiate between those who really have been drinking versus those who haven’t is important and it’s a bit of a tough call. Below 1000 nanograms of EtG per milliliter of urine is usually considered innocent and over 5000 nanograms will almost always mean that the person has been boozing it up. What about the people who fall in between? That’s the tough call part.

Beer CansI’m Unsure On This One

This test doesn’t really sit well with me. Considering the number of deaths related to alcohol poisoning, I can see why school staff would want to use the test. I still see too many flaws with this system for it to be truly successful though. I think it’s more important to educate teens so they don’t want to go out and get wasted. I know it sucks too because I’m a complete non-drinker and even at my age, I still get some friendly teasing from friends when I order tea at a pub while everyone else has beer. I don’t think a urine test is the way to keep students from drinking. Plus, can you imagine a student who hasn’t been drinking getting a false positive and maybe being expelled?

I also don’t like the idea of a student possibly being expelled for something like drinking. Yes, it’s illegal but I don’t feel that the punishment fits the ‘crime.’ Given that the school is detecting alcohol consumption outside of the classroom, it’s also school interference in an area that I think should ideally be involving parents.

Some Last Thoughts From Me

I want to share a true story. Maybe I’m trying to scare readers into being careful if they plan to drink? I don’t know. I just like to think that if you’re going to drink, you will do it responsibly. That’s probably not the politically correct thing to say-us adults are supposed to tell teens not to drink at all. If I said that, would you really listen though?

When Things Go Horribly Wrong

A few years ago, my flatmate went on a trip to Barcelona with a small group of guys. They all planned to just have fun and party the night away. I was surprised to receive a distressed phone call from my flatmate; he told me that his friend had died from too much booze. Not only was his blood alcohol level dangerously high, but he ultimately died from choking on his vomit. It was a night that went bad very quickly.

The death could have been prevented.

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